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Rural Health Information Hub

Definition of Telehealth

Telehealth allows providers to deliver health and human services to rural areas using a range of technologies. The Health Resources and Services Administration defines telehealth as:

“The use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support and promote long-distance clinical healthcare, patient and professional health-related education, public health and health administration.”

The National Telehealth Policy Resource Center's Center for Connected Health Policy uses a description that focuses on the intent of telehealth:

“Telehealth is a broad term that encompasses a variety of telecommunications technologies and tactics to provide health services from a distance. Telehealth is not a specific clinical service, but rather a collection of means to enhance care and education delivery.”

Though the terms "telehealth" and "telemedicine" are often used interchangeably, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology identifies some key differences. While telehealth can be used to deliver a broad range of medical care, education, and public health services, telemedicine typically focuses on exchanging medical information and providing diagnosis and treatment. The regional Telehealth Resource Centers provide additional clarity about a framework for defining telehealth.

The Telehealth and Health Information Technology in Rural Healthcare topic guide provides a comprehensive overview and frequently asked questions about telehealth.